Monday, November 28, 2011

Spreading Out, Back In

The above image is from the print edition of the Charlotte Observer. It is pretty self-explanatory, showing the enlargening, broadening of the poor. Of course, the poor are still huddling up as close to the urban core as possible, which might otherwise be known as opportunity areas (for better or worse, mind you).

The other interesting note is the bifurcated pattern of the wealthy, which is pretty observably replicated in every other American city. About half are moving into defensible, monocultural enclaves far out from the core, while others are repopulating the center, otherwise known as high amenity areas.

As for the poor migrating outward, in many ways being pushed out to area where they must "drive til they qualify," which really isn't the poor as much as lower and middle classes getting squeezed toward the poor end of the toothpaste tube, Charlotte in particular has been in the news quite a bit for the rise in criminal and drug activity at the edges. I don't find this to be unique to Charlotte either.

I don't find either to be particularly "right" or "wrong," but rather both quite natural, with examples throughout history. The well-to-do could have country manors, simply because they could afford it (of course, this also necessitates extreme wealth, the kind found in the various gilded ages) or they possess the best, most desirable property, that within the city boundaries.

A good example of this might be Rothenburg, Germany where the most wealthy had peripheral castles with servants, essentially their own private, nearly self-sufficient mini-cities. While the next class of wealthy, often merchants, occupied their particular version of the "high street" or "main street." Their houses were ornate, and highly concentrated along the radials stemming from the marketplatz, with more spartan dwellings toward the periphery.

The highest value area, the area of the highest "convergence" or spatial integration (that is til other cities surpassed Rothenburg's purpose) had the greatest amount of density and ornament, i.e. accommodation. Integration begets accommodation (which might have a subset called "decoration" or "ornamentation" -- both by-products of demand of density).

The lower density and more affordable wants to get as close as possible to the integration or "convergence" points, the areas of opportunity. Rothenburg is interesting because it is so small that there is really only one major identifiable one, with a few others scattered at the edges where the radial or "entry" streets intersect with some of the smaller "orbitals" or the outlying streets.

Point being, there is always some measure of natural order occurring within cities as they shift shape, mold, expand or contract, and they all come down to desirability, opportunity, individual wants and needs. Though, what people can afford and how many can afford it, is a critical component to the "weight" or mass of the movement dynamic.